The Kitchwa people.
Wed 20 Apr 2016 22:40
When the Spanish arrived they couldn't believe there were no prisons in Ecuador. The Kitchwa people for a typical example, keep their children very close to them. In fact in what we saw of Ecuador parents carry their babies and young, they don't own prams or push chairs.
Kitchwa children attend school from age five and learn their own language and Spanish plus other subjects. However the boys still learn to hunt with blow pipes and the girls learn to cook and weave baskets and make jewellery and are proficient with a machete from the age of eight.
Some young Kitchwan people finish school and straightaway start to teach in their own schools under the tutors hip, no not tutors hip, tutorship of an experienced teacher for two years.
If they are naughty they are warned but the next stage is a strike with a poison ivy branch. If adults misbehave it's the poison ivy plus cold water in front of the gathered community at the community centre, ouch but effective.
Some Kitchwans leave their homes for the city but of late it has been hard to find work. They define poverty as a day without food. At home there is always plenty of food because the families grow it. Consequently there is a healthy multi aged population thriving in these happy, isolated groups.
Not that they are averse to modern ways. To raise money for supplies from Coca like beer and clothes the women have been helped by the government to set up small tourist businesses showing visitors how they live. This is a step forward considering how conservative their menfolk have been.
Berta showed us around wearing her blue sleeveless dress uniform. She has nine children and talked in Kitchwan while Raoul translated. She was quietly proud of her heritage and by the time we had peeped into the class rooms and shuddered at the thought of cutting the football field at the centre of the community area with the machete she so deftly sharpened on a stone we were well in to learning more. In the cleared vegetable area Berta told us how her grandchildren help her plant yucca cuttings but she has to go around again after they are asleep and turn some the right way up!
The men hunt pecaries, pigs, monkeys pretty much anything that moves using blow pipes and I was right when I commented that the pipe appeared to be wrapped with black self-amalgamating tape. The tips of the needle thin arrows are dipped in a muscle relaxant poison taken from numerous tree types. First the brain is numbed, then the limbs relax and finally the heart gives out.
Finally we went into the replica home. I was relieved we weren't visiting their real home as it is such an intrusion in my view. All the other women there were in red dresses the same style as Berta's and were busy cooking or attending the tables covered with their beautiful hand made crafts.
We were first treated to Chica, a drink made from vegetables such as the yucca tuber, ground up in a mini wooden boat and fermented with sweet potato. In days of old the women would chew the pulp to create a fermentation but we were relieved that today they leave it to the yams. On day one and two of the fermentation the children are allowed to drink this not unpleasant textured beer, but after that it achieves 2-3% alcohol so they give the children something else like their nice tea that tastes smoky like lapsang souchong.
There isn't a big problem with alcoholism because unlike the North American Natives who were poisoned with rum from the Caribbean, the beer they make is not dissimilar to the beer they buy.
To support them and as a momento we bought a calabash bowl with shiny red and black seeds around the rim. We spotted it as we admired their skilled handicrafts while eating a typical lunch from a wooden plate. Palm stem, fish, a crunchy fruit and a big fat roasted reddy brown grub. OK so that sorted out the men from the boys. I unhappily could not eat mine as I'm piscarian but Rob chewed through his and so did Marcel, hats off to you boys!
Back on board the full scale of the earthquake damage was being shown on the TV and we feared not only for Zoonie but also the people of Bahia who had so quickly become our friends after our arrival.